Thursday, January 20, 2011

Let's destroy an enduring frum legend about John F. Kennedy

Thanks to Google, I see that today is the 50th anniversary of JFK's inauguration, a day best remembered by Orthodox Jews for something that didn't happen.

According to frum legend, Kennedy was the first president to appear at an inauguration with no hat; magically the hat industry immediately went into a decline from which it still has not recovered.  "Were it not for  Kennedy," goes a mashgiach's rant I've twice heard with my own ears, "and his corrupt ideas about freedom, men would still dress modestly."

The flaw with this theory isn't merely the lousy logic; the facts are bad, too. So in honor of the big anniversary, let's set the record straight: Kennedy wore a hat to his inauguration.

Proof and more information after the jump

When faced with the photographic evidence most yeshivish yungerleit will concede the point; others dig in and change their original claim. |After seeing these photos a typical maneuverer, performed by some, is the ad hoc revision. Whoops, they'll say. What I meant is that Kennedy destroyed the hat industry because he delivered his address without wearing a hat.

And, the photo evidence bears this out: Kennedy did make his speech sans hat.

However, he was hardly the first president to deliver an inaugural address without a hat

James Garfield: No hat 
William McKinley: No hat

Teddy Roosevelt: No hat 
Woodrow Wilson: No hat 
Calvin Coolidge: No hat 
Herbert Hoover: No hat

FDR: No hat 

Harry S. Truman: No Hat

Dwight David Eisenhower: No hat

The quote that led to these discoveries back in 2006
"From the time President Kennedy shucked his fedora at his 1960 inauguration ceremony and replaced it with the new look of freedom, the black hat assumed a heightened significance in society at large." -- Pinny "Pinhead" Lipshutz

Search for more information about JFK at

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